Why Reading Science Matters (BS 136)

Why Reading Science Matters (BS 136)

Brain Science 136 is a discussion of Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It by Mark Seidenberg. We explore some recent discoveries from reading science and ponder why there is such a large gap between these scientific discoveries and current educational practices in the US. 

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Neural Reuse and Embodied Cognition (BSP 124)

BSP 124 is an interview with Dr. Michael Anderson, author of After Phrenology: Neural Reuse and the Interactive Brain. We also continue our ongoing discussion of Embodied Cognitive Science.

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What Do Mirror Neurons Really Do? (BSP 112)

 Greg Hickok, PhD (Click on photo to hear his interview)

Greg Hickok, PhD (Click on photo to hear his interview)

Ever since their chance discovery back in 1992 mirror neurons have captured the imagination of both scientists and nonscientists, but their actual role remains mostly speculative. In The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition Dr. Gregory Hickok (UC-Irvine) explains why the most popular theory is probably wrong. He also provides a fascinating account of how science is really done and the sobering lesson that scientists can fall prey to the same cognitive biases (and tendencies toward laziness) that plague all humans.

I first discussed the discovery of mirror neurons back in BSP 35 when I featured  Mirrors in the brain: How our minds share actions, emotions, and experience (2008) by Giacomo Rizzolatti and Corrado Sinigaglia. At that time what I found most fascinating was that since mirror neurons fire both when a subject (usually a monkey) performs an action and when a similar action is observed, this proves that single neurons are not necessarily purely motor or purely sensory. This surprising discovery seems to have been overshadowed in the rush to use mirror neurons to explain everything from autism to language evolution.

The latest Brain Science Podcast  (BSP 112) features an interview with Dr. Gregory Hickok. BSP 35 is also available for FREE via the Brain Science Podcast Mobile APP.

 

How to get this episode:

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References and Links

Related Episodes:

  • BSP 35: introduction to Mirror Neurons (free as an episode extra if you use the BSP mobile app)
  • BSP 39: Dr. Michael Arbib on the possible role of mirror neurons in language evolution (note this interview doesn't represent his current views)

Announcements:

  • Next month's episode will provide exclusive coverage of "Neuroplasticity and Healing" an event being hosted by the Dalai Lama at the UAB School of Medicine.

  • The most recent 25 episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE. Older episodes and episode transcripts are available for $1 each. Premium subscribers have unlimited access to all 100+ episodes and transcripts.

  • Reminder: The Brain Science Podcast mobile app is now FREE for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile.  Check newer episodes for extra free content!

  • Don't forget to check out my other podcast Books and Ideas.

  • Please share your feedback about this episode by sending email to brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com or going to the Brain Science Podcast Discussion Forum at http://brainscienceforum.com. You can also post to our fan pages on Facebook or Google+.

Alice Gaby Talks About Linguistics (BSP 41)

Alice Gaby

Episode 41 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Alice Gaby, PhD, from the University of California-Berkeley.  Dr. Gaby is a linguist who studies the role of language in cognition as well as the aboriginal languages of Australia . In this episode, Dr. Gaby introduces some of the basic areas of linguistics.  We also talk about why linguistics is important to understanding brain function, as well as the importance of interdisciplinary communication to advancement in both fields.  Dr. Gaby's infectious enthusiasm makes this potentially intimidating subject accessible to everyone.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
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  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Links and References:

Other scientists mentioned in the interview:

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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Send email feedback to Ginger Campbell, MD at brainsciencepodcast@gmail.com

Mirror Neurons with Michael Arbib (BSP 39)

Episode 39 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Dr. Michael Arbib from the University of Southern California.  Dr. Arbib's work with functional brain imaging has established the presence of mirror neurons in the human brain.  In our interview, we focused on the role of mirror neurons in imitation and language.  In particular, I questioned Dr. Arbib about the Mirror System Hypothesis (MSH) of Language Evolution that he proposed in 1998 with Giacomo Rizzolatti.  We also explored how this hypothesis diverges from the universal grammar proposed by Noam Chomsky.  Dr. Arbib also shared his enthusiasm for future research and we talked about the special challenges caused by the interdisciplinary nature of modern neuroscience.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Related Episodes:

Scientists mentioned in the interview:

  • Giacomo Rizzolatti: His team discovered mirror neurons at the University of Parma, Italy. Other team members: Vittorio Gallese, Luciano Fadiga, and Leo Fogassi.
  • Ursula Bellugi (Salk Institute): pioneered the neurobiology of sign language.
  • Richard Byrne (University of St. Andrews): studies how gorillas learn in the wild.
  • Michael Tomasello (Max Planck Institute for Comparative Anthropology): studies social behavior of primates, including how communicative gestures vary between groups.
  • Noam Chomsky (MIT): famous linguist who has proposed an inborn universal grammar.
  • DL Cheney and RM Seyfarth:  research about primate vocal behavior, especially the use of calls in the wild.

References:

Other Links:

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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Embodied Cognition with Art Glenberg (BSP 36)

Art Glenberg, PhD

Episode 36 of the Brain Science Podcast  is an interview with Arthur Glenberg, PhD, about embodied cognition.  Dr. Glenberg recently moved to Arizona State University, after over 30 years at the University of Wisconsin's Laboratory of Embodied Cognition.  His research focuses on the relationship between embodiment and language.  In this interview, we explore the experimental evidence for a theory of language that embraces the concept that our language abilities are actually rooted in our perceptual and motor abilities.  Dr. Glenberg also explains how his work has practical implications in helping children learn how to read.

Since Dr. Glenberg has had a long career as a working research scientist, this interview also provided an opportunity to explore how scientific hypotheses are formed and how experiments are designed to test these hypothesis.  I think this interview will give you a fascinating look into the real world of cognitive psychology.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Links and References:

Arthur Glenberg, PhD

Other scientists mentioned in the Episode:

  • George Lakoff: pioneering linguist.
  • James Gibson: known for his ideas about affordances.William Epstein-emeritus professor at the University of Wisconsin.
  • Joseph Campos: University of California (Berkelely).
  • Amy Needham and Amanda Woodard-experiments with velcro mits and infant cognition.
  • David A Havas: graduate student and co-author with Dr. Glenberg.
  • Mike Kashak: Florida State University.
  • Mike Rinck: German co-author-see paper under Glenberg (more papers).
  • Vittorio Gallese, Dept of Neuroscience, University of Parma, Italy (where mirror neurons were discovered): extensive experimental with motor neurons in monkeys.
  • Fritz Stack (Germany): experiments showing that facial experiments affect mood and cognition.

References:

Donations and Subscriptions are appreciated

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Do People Hear Sounds Differently?

There is lots of interesting stuff coming out of this year's annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  I hope to attend the meeting in person next year. This year's meeting is  ove,r but I hope to bring you a few brain-related highlights in the next few days.

Since Episode 30, I have been on the lookout for linguistics related news, which is why the following item in ScienceDaily.com caught my eye:  Linguistics professor, Jackson T. Gandour, presented information from several of his pitch processing studies entitled "Brain Basis of Speech."
"Everyone has a brainstem, but it's tuned differently depending on what sounds are behaviorally relevant to a person; for example, the sounds of his or her mother tongue," Gandour said.

Jackson T. Gandour is a researcher in neurophonetics at Purdue University.  The complete article, "Linguist Tunes In To Pitch Processing In Brain" is available at the Science Daily website.

The Evolution of Language (BSP 30)

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Episode 30 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, by Christine Kenneally.  We focus mostly on the first part of the book, which tells the story of how the study of language evolution has grown from almost a banned subject to a new field of inquiry called evolutionary linguistics.  We also reflect on how recent findings in neuroscience like the importance of plasticity are influencing the field.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Scientists discussed in the Episode:

*References:

*Additional references can be found in Kenneally's book and at the websites of the scientists listed above.  Also, be sure to check out Kenneally's blog for follow-up information.

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Check Out This Interview with Linguist Alice Gaby

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I just listened to the February 6, episode of Science Talk, the podcast from Scientific American.  Steve Mirsky talks with linguist Alice Gaby, from the University of California-Berkeley, about the relationship between language, culture, cognition and perception.   This is very relevant to Episode 30 of the Brain Science Podcast  (due out on February 8), which is about the evolution of language.

Reading and the Brain with Dr. Maryanne Wolf (BSP 29)

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Dr. Maryanne Wolf, Director ofThe Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University

Episode 29 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.  I discussed her book in Episode 24, so this interview was an opportunity to ask her some follow-up questions, and to focus more on how children learn to read.  Dr. Wolf shares her ten years of experience helping children learn to read and developing programs to help children with problems like dyslexia.  She shares some practical advice for parents as well as her concerns about how reliance on the internet could influence reading skills.

I enjoyed the conversation and, while I especially want to share this episode with parents, I think Dr. Wolf gives everyone some interesting ideas to consider. 

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Links:

Maryanne Wolf

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The Reading Brain (BSP 24)

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Episode 24 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, by Maryanne Wolf.

How to get this episode:

  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.

Show Notes:

Dr. Wolf's book, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, is divided into three main topics: the history of how writing and reading developed over the last few thousand years, the developmental stages involved in learning how to read, and what happens when the brain can't learn to read.  My podcast concentrates on the main ideas from the first two topics.

History of Writing:

  • The discovery of symbols.
  • Early writing systems- cuneiform and hieroglyphics.
  • Why Chinese gives us a window into the past.
  • Importance of the alphabet.
  • Why Socrates opposed literacy.

The stages of becoming a reader:

  • The early pre-reader-with emphasis on language development.
  • The novice reader-connecting letters to the sounds of language.
  • The decoding reader.
  • The fluent comprehending reader-learning to "read between the lines."
  • The expert reader-why reading continues to change us throughout our lives.
  • What goes wrong when the brain can't learn to read: how new findings are leading to new solutions.

Links and References

  • Maryann Wolf, Director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.
    • FastForward -a successful approach to treating dyslexia.
    • Michael Posner - a psychologist who used PET scans to study what happens during shifts of attention (a necessary first step in reading).

    Follow-up interview with Dr. Wolf (BSP 29)

    Review of "The First Idea" by Shanker & Greenspan (BSP 6)

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    Episode 6 of the Brain Science Podcast is a discussion of The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, And Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern Humans, by Stanley I. Greenspan, MD and Stuart G. Shanker, DPhil.

    I wanted to talk about emotion, but I generally base the Brain Science Podcast on my current reading; which is why I chose this rather difficult book that touches on psychology, child development, evolution, and theories about the emergence of language and intelligence.

    The basic premise which is discussed in the podcast is that emotional signaling is the basis for the emergence of language and intelligence.  Evidence supporting this hypothesis is discussed, as is how the theory challenges long-standing theories about language and intelligence.

    How to get this episode:

    • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
    • Buy BSP 1-10 (zip file of mp3 files)
    • Transcripts: BSP 1-14
    • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.